Week in Rewind

I spent most of last week in rehearsal for a reunion show at my creative arts school in Arlington. We performed two shows this past weekend, to sold out houses.

It was like a class reunion with just the people I like. Only it was also more than that, because there were thirty-five years of alumni participating, so I got to meet new people as well as see with the people who were basically my family for three years.

My friends!

My friends!

See that lady in turquoise to my right? She was my musical theater teacher, and one of the first people (other than my mom) to tell me I was talented and I could do whatever I wanted. She led by example–she wrote plays and lyrics, she directed shows, plus she was a great actress herself. I wanted to be her when I grew up.

That blond guy to my left? He used to send me hand drawn valentines. Now he’s an award winning director who was knighted by the king of Belgium for the documentary he made about the Belgian resistance during WWII.  (He has a lovely wife and parter and adorable children. I’m sure his valentines are better now.)

That guy in the middle, with the goofy smile? He was MY junior high crush. (Well, he was everyone’s crush.) He just (a) had a baby, (b) released his first album with his band and (c) his wife just sold her first book.

That guy with the glasses? Does the documentary shorts that go on the DVD extras. Yeah, so he hangs out and chats with Christopher Nolan and stuff.

That girl on the box, hovering above me?   She (a) got most of the roles I wanted and (b) dated Junior High Crush.  So did the redhead on the end. Everyone dated my Junior High Crush but me. But we were friends anyway.

That chick in black in the middle?  She’s all in black because she lives in NYC doing fancy NYC stuff.  She hosted the halloween party where we played spin the bottle and seven minutes in heaven. You know. Like we would have known what to do with seven minutes.

That’s ancient history. I only attended the school for three years. I loved being on stage (I still do) but it takes a special kind of fortitude to be a career actor. However, my favorite part was the storytelling and becoming a character, and that led me to the realization that I wanted to write books. (It was kind of weird that I ended up working in a theater while I worked at that goal. Or… maybe not.)

Still, the particular chemistry of that environment established the basis for everythingNot just theater school, but that theater school with those people and those teachers. They had an idea for a creative arts school and they made it happen. They created their own shows and stories, they made things out of nothing into something. And they instilled that in the students.

When I was teaching drama, I used to tell the parents that chances were, their kid wasn’t going to end up acting as a career (or be on Saturday Night Live or anything), but that the things they learned in the theater–confidence and creativity and teamwork–would help them in whatever they chose to do. I think that’s definitely been true for my students, as it was for my class.

Enjoy what you do, and do it one hundred percent for as long as you love it. It doesn’t matter if it’s what you’re going to do forever. (Does every student on the football team end up in the NFL? Of course not.) Nothing you learn is ever wasted. It will show up somewhere, some way you don’t even expect.

P.S.  Any Glee fans read this blog?  You know what? Warbler Nick is even better looking in person. (And not really in high school, so it’s not gross that I said that.)

On the Second Day of Christmas…

So, the Christmas report.

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Here’s my Christmas Tree, with Mom’s present under it. I sort of love that it looks like Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree. We also had an Advent wreath this year:

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Sweet, right? Only yesterday I realized I didn’t have a candle holder for the white candle in the middle, the one you light for Christmas Day. So I improvised:

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Yes, that’s a jigger from my drinks cabinet. I am an Ecclesiastical Maguyver.

We’ve had a very Dutch Christmas. Been enjoying ontbijkoek for breakfast (and tea and more), but Mom bought this special pastry for Christmas morning: basically marzipan wrapped in pastry. OMG two of my favorite holiday things.

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Only when I went to bake it, I discovered the instructions were in Dutch:

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I do not read much Dutch (and I speak even less). But there were enough similar words and context that I could work out I was supposed to warm it up in the oven for about ten minutes. But most important: NIET VERWARMEN IN DER MAGNETRON!!

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Oh my God, I didn’t even know I HAD a magnetron. How awesome is that. From not on, I’m not calling my microwave anything else.

Here’s what else I had: A hot dog in a blanket:

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So, new house, new traditions, and I’ve bored you with my holiday snaps. My holiday is now complete.

No Penguins Were Harmed Making This Post

Today is my two month new house anniversary. I still love my little townhouse. I thought that having neighbors in such close proximity would take getting used to, but really? I lived in the land of the big house and small yard, so this isn’t that much different.

In fact, it’s kind of quiet. But this morning when I let the dogs out, the neighbors were having an argument. (These are the neighbors who have a cat that likes to come over and taunt my dogs by prancing in front of the window.)  Of course, as soon as the dogs are done, Mom and I are pressed up against the porch door, shamelessly eavesdropping. I haven’t had any neighbor drama since the pot-dealing teenagers across the street from the old house got sent off to military school.  I’ve really missed it.

“I think someone is getting kicked out,” says Mom.

“She’s not going to kick him out,” I whisper back. “She’s pregnant.”

“She might,” says Mom sagely. “It’s the twenty-first century, not the nineteen fifties.”

“I hope he takes the cat,” I say.

It’s at this point that I realize that Mom and I have become characters in a Monty Python sketch.

Not really, of course. I have a flat screen TV. A penguin couldn’t sit on top.

*rimshot*

Thank you. I’ll be here all week.

Actually, mom and I each have a TV, so exploding penguins aren’t as much of a problem as dueling explosion movies  from the 90′s. She likes Independence Day.  I like The Rock. (The movie with Ed Harris, not the actor Dwayne Johnson. Not that I have a problem with him, either.)

Also, is it weird that Independence Day is almost 20 years old? It’s older than a lot of you. Will Smith was the hot young guy who punched aliens in the face. But it’s weird now, because the crushes of my youth are now playing Somebody’s Dad. I mean, still hot, but I’m just putting that in perspective for you.

The nineties movies aren’t on purpose, by the way. It just happens that 1) they are a particular kind of awesome (case in point, The Fifth Element) before filmmakers had the need to be all brooding and dark and stuff, or even make sense, really and 2) they are on TV all the time.

Also, no penguins are harmed in those explosions.

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Remembering NaNoWriMo and Trying to Inspire Others

Rosemary Clement-Moore:

Because Kate says everything I would say:

Originally posted on Kate Cornell:

A friend of mine, Briana Hansen, is vlogging her National Novel Writing Month journey. I’m being supportive, as you should be ifRemembering NaNoWriMo and Trying to Inspire Others someone you know is doing it. It’s tough. It’s hard. You need a support structure.

I have the added benefit of having done it myself.

My journey is atypical. The way I write is different from others (everyone’s writing is different). I write novels by hand and I don’t set pen to paper unless I know what the story is, who the characters are, and where it’s going. I spend most of my waking moments planning.

So, when someone says, write a novel in a month, it’s easy. If I have one ready.

My NaNoWriMo experience was a class assignment in college. I finished in 8 days. The whole class hated me. Everyone finished by the end of the month. So, from someone who wrote 55,000 words…

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Soylent Green is People

No one ever believes me when I say that I’m an introvert at heart.  If you’ve ever met me at a book event, you know what I mean. I have no trouble with public speaking, and I enjoy  talking with readers and writers and librarians. I have a reputation as bubbly and outgoing.

Hermit Crab

This is a sham. I am really a hermit crab with good coping skills.

It isn’t that I don’t like people, especially readers.  But you know how you don’t want to go to a friend’s birthday party or something, even though you actually really like your friend, but it’s going to be noisy and there’s going to be dancing or whatever, and your mom is all like, “Just go. You know you’ll have a good time once you get there,” and you whine and protest but she makes you go and then you actually do have a really good time?

That’s pretty much me all the time.

And it’s kind of a vicious cycle, because once I get into my cave, it’s safe and cozy and I have my dog and MY SPOT on the couch and lots of coffee and cookies. You would think that I would have a lot more writing to show for this, but there’s also satellite TV and Netflix for marathoning full seasons of Lost Girl and Breaking Bad. Then I realize that I’ve written five pages in the last five days and I live with my mother and I haven’t had a date or been out with my friends in months, which is my own fault because I love my spot and my dog and my Netflix and OH MY GOD THIS IS HOW CRAZY CAT LADIES GET STARTED.

Not that that is really what happens. I’m just saying it could.

This is why writers need Real Life friends. Because after a certain point it takes dynamite to get me out of my cave. When I don’t come to critique group for two weeks in a row, my friends threaten to send a Navy SEAL extraction team. It has nothing to do with the fact that my work needs critique. (Which, of course it doesn’t, because it falls from my fingers like perfect jewels of prose.)  It’s because otherwise I will turn into the crazy dog lady.

So, this morning I’m sitting at a table in Starbucks with four of my writer friends. We’re actually being really productive this morning, all of us with our earphones in, typing away at our laptops, which probably looks a little weird to people. (Or maybe not. I’m sure Starbucks has seen weirder stuff.)  Why meet in person to sit and look at your own computer screen and not talk to each other?

For one thing, it forces us to rejoin civilization. You know. Take a shower and wear pants without elastic waistbands.  For another, I look up and see my friends hammering on the keys, and peer pressure puts its boot to my butt.

But most of all it’s good to get out of the cave.  We’re social creatures, human beings. Sometimes being around people, whether you actually talk to them or not, is like taking your vitamins.

I hear that’s good for you.

Soylentgreen

 

 

The Good, The Bad, and the Prom Dress

October is a difficult month for me. On one hand, it might be my favorite month of twelve to chose from.  Normally it’s a Beautiful Weather month, one of the few that is reliably cooler. Not necessarily cool, but cooler.  We’ll get some mornings in September that are worth leaving the patio door open. But witness this year, when we still had 99 degree days.

But the problem with October is that it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Which is not a problem in itself except that all my favorite cosmetic companies put out special products and limited edition collections. And the only thing I love more than a set of limited edition lip glosses is a PINK set of limited edition lip glosses.

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Essie’s “Pink About It” which jumped into my shopping bag yesterday.

So anyway. After my trip to ULTA resulted in a new eyeliner (black with metallic pink flecks), a jar of Philosophy moisturizer (exactly the same as normal moisturizer, except in a sparkly pink package), and a pink Origin’s lip gloss, I decided I’d better stay away from the cosmetic stores for the rest of the month, and just donate money directly to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. It will be cheaper for me in the long run.

In other philanthropy news, lets talk about DonateMyDress.com.  I found out about this site because of Tina Ferraro’s book Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress, which came out the same day as Prom Dates From Hell.  (Maggie’s Prom Dress could absolutely not be donated for re-wearing by another lucky girl. It was a very Unlucky Dress. Unless you count the fact that she survived the night. Spoiler.)

OKay, anyway, so what DO you do with a special occasion dress after you’re done with it?  I got double use out of my prom dress because I wore it to a Freshman Formal.  I usually tried to get more than one use out of all my dresses. If I wore it to a fall dance, I’d recycle it for the Military Ball in the spring, or vice versa. I got through college pretty well that way.

Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress(Just to brag a bit… I even wore my college formals after college, including to my first RITA awards dinner.)

But through various circumstance–like changing fashions, changing weight *ahem* and tastes, when I moved I discovered an assortment of formal and semiformal dresses. So I went to http://www.donatemydress.com to find a local organization that would take my dress(es) and pass it on to someone who needed it.  They’re all in really good shape, worn only once.  Why keep that hanging in my closet?

Dallas/Fort Worth has HEB Prom Closet. I just visited them with my armful of chiffon and taffeta and met the wonderful volunteers. It’s nice and clean, and they have formal wear for all occasions. They even have suits for guys.  They loan out dresses, shoes, purses, jewelry… the whole outfit.  And they take donations of all those things.

So if you have any dresses in good shape that you know you’re not going to wear again, check out the website and find your dress a good home.

Y’all have been reading all the way down to find out what the “bad” is in this post, haven’t you?  Ha!  Psych. There is no bad.

 

It never rains here… except when I move.

Don’t want to read to the end?  I’m going to be at the Austin Teen Book Festival tomorrow (Saturday 9/28) with Maggie Stiefvater, Sarah Dessen, Rob Thomas and Holly Black, among others. Info at the link.

I have Internet in the new house! Yay!  Now I have no excuse for such a long gap between blogs.

Last week I got the entourage (Mom and all three dogs) and the whole (old) house packed up and moved across DFW (or at least my part of DFW) to the NEW house. As you may know from blog posts, not to mention my Internet Absence, I have been working like a stevedore to make The Move run like a military campaign.

I forget that military campaigns involve massive support staff, the funding of the federal government, and also soldiers that you can order around. Which you can’t really do with a Mom. So this was more like a two person patrol with a couple of thousand pounds in a backpack.

Also?  We’re in the middle of a drought. It hasn’t rained in months. Except for the two days when we were moving. Yay rain.

Still, nothing will match The Great Parental Move of 2004, when we moved from the ranch to Fort Worth.  It had rained so much that spring that the pasture was half-flooded and the truck couldn’t get to the house. We had to ferry all the furniture from my parents’ house out on a flat bed trailer just to get it to the moving truck.

When I left my house with the last loads, I was wading out with my pants rolled up over my knees. I had packed my Jeep to the rafters. Literally. Rood rack included. I had Trini (a husky mix) in the back seat, two cat carriers in the front passenger seat and a goldfish in the cup holder.

This move was easier than that, but that’s not saying much. I finally got smart enough to call in reinforcements for the secondary U-Haul I rented to bring over all the stuff that wouldn’t fit on the FIRST truck. (It’s like I lived in the Tardis. That much stuff shouldn’t fit in closets.)

I am not good about asking for help. Sometimes it has to be forced upon me.

ANYway. After all the things we got rid of, we got into the house and were like, we STILL have too much stuff.  Boxes were packed (literally!) to the ceiling.  I had to crawl over furniture to get to the back door.  Mom packed all her computer cords, so we had to share one laptop cord and one iPad/iPhone cord between us.

I have eaten nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and yogurt for a week. Oh, and Dunkin Donuts, but the novelty of that place has pretty much worn off for me.  We’ve already had our first slip and fall (Mom, bruised but unbroken, thank God and I mean THAT literally, too) and the dogs have christened the carpet.

And now I’m leaving The Entourage behind and traveling to Austin for the Austin Teen Book Festival.  It’s on Saturday at the convention center, it’s FREE and it features an amazing lineup of authors and SO much fun.  If you’re in Austin, or near Austin, come and see me.  (The link has all the details.)